KIEV, Ukraine, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- The European Union is willing to enter negotiations with Ukraine and Russia on issues related to natural gas transits through Ukraine, a commissioner said.
Ukrainian officials are pursuing a better natural gas deal from Russia. The Ukrainian government says the current deal, brokered in 2009, is damaging an economy bruised by economic recession.
Russian energy company Gazprom in 2009 cut gas supplies through Ukraine over contract disputes, leaving downstream consumers in Europe in the cold for weeks.
European Energy Commissioner Gunter Oettinger said after talks with Ukrainian officials that he was ready to step into the fray.
"The EU is willing, if Ukraine and Russia so wish, to enter into tripartite consultations on gas transit at any time," he said in a statement.
Ukraine has tried to move closer to the EU, which expressed frustration after former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sent to jail on charges she abused her authority in the 2009 gas deal.
Bloomberg News reports Gazprom offered to buy Ukraine's gas pipeline system for $4 billion. Ukrainian officials, however, have objected, saying it would prefer a trilateral system with shares split equally between Russian, Ukrainian and international partners.